The Next Victim

Erasmo Calzadilla

populationHAVANA TIMES — Every time I publish a post dealing with the energy crisis, I am showered with insults. I have been called delirious, an alarmist, a Nostradamus wannabe, a chronic pessimist, a sensationalist, a Caribbean version of Pol Pot, a poor devil brainwashed by Fidel Castro, a follower of Diogenes the Cynic, Andreas Lubitz wannabe and other flattering things of this nature.

I am not offended by these epithets. In fact, I forgive people for them. I understand that disinformation agencies have worked hard at promoting these ideas. If anyone has any doubts in this respect, suffice it to look at how the current conflict in Yemen has been treated by the media.

Yemen is up in flames. I am not talking about a political crisis; I am speaking about plain human suffering. For a number of years now, peak-oilers have been announcing the imminent collapse of this country. Here, you can read a visionary article by Gail Tverberg (published in 2013) and another piece by Javier Perez, posted in The Oil Crash.

How did the harbingers of the energy crisis know who the next victim would be? A crystal ball? Perhaps a spy somewhere is supplying them with secret information?

Erasmo-3---yemenNo, nothing of the sort. Predicting that Yemen would explode sooner rather than later was easy as ABC. Look at the data and judge for yourselves.

  • A desert country (only 1% of its territory can be irrigated).
  • A population that’s growing exponentially (which has doubled since 1980). Today, it has more than 24 million inhabitants.
  • The country has to import the bulk of the food products it consumes (95% of its cereals and 82% of all edibles).
  • A precarious situation, owing to the dividends secured through oil exports (90% of the country’s income and 74 % of government revenues).

To top things off, oil production has been plummeting since the beginning of the century and barely metes domestic consumption needs today.

The result: famine, social crises, a bankrupt government, un-governability and the reemergence of old, internal conflicts.

A real powder keg. Was it actually hard to predict the explosion? Is it that difficult to understand the reasons behind it?

Of course not, it’s just a question of doing the math. Any complex analysis of the situation has to begin with this basic, ugly reality. Let’s see how the big and not-so-big media frame the issue. I chose two representative examples: a typical article of the Western press and one from an “alternative left-wing” agency.

Iran Could Begin Power War in the Arabic Peninsula (El Tiempo, March 2015) conducts a detailed, objective and non-ideological analysis of the situation in Yemen. It offers interesting information about the factions at war, warns us of the danger that the conflict may spread to other Gulf countries, mentions the international actors that support the different factions and assesses the consequences of an escalade in violence.

Yemen: Religious Conflict or Foreign Intervention was published by Telesur in April of 2015. According to the article, the war was caused by the West’s maneuvers in the region. The United States offers military and financial aid to certain groups that help it control the flow of the black gold in the region. These groups then begin to act on their own and bite the hand that fed them. The stabs that this report takes at the West do not aim at the inherently predatory and insatiable techno-productive system as such. More importantly, it focuses on the oil issue but blatantly ignores the link between Yemen’s crisis and the decline in oil production in the country.

This Syrian girl “surrendered” when a photographer aimed his camera at her.
This Syrian girl “surrendered” when a photographer aimed his camera at her.

These articles exemplify the way in which the press in developed and developing countries treat the current crisis facing the Arab world. They embellish it to hide what it actually is: a problem with no solution that has left several countries in intensive therapy and threatens global stability. One needn’t be so blunt, after all – who would want to see the stock market collapse because of mass panic?

The Next Victim

Oil exporting countries that reach their extraction peaks and have nothing to fall back on will fall one by one. Those who foresaw Yemen’s collapse point to two nations in critical condition: Nigeria and Venezuela. Needless to say, those of us suckling at Venezuela’s teat will follow.

We still have time to avoid the worst. Let us try and wake up before it’s too late. The innocent will pay for our irresponsible ways.

8 thoughts on “The Next Victim

  • Capitalism dies within 20 years because Moore’s Law dictates that artificial intelligence will reach beyond human levels in the early 2020s . At that point a smarter-than-human intelligence will start solving the problems of energy, clean water, the environment, disease, old age : most or all of the problems we now face.
    That intelligence will expand to a point somewhere around 2045 where none of the tech experts will hazard a guess as to what becomes of that hyper-intelligent force . Will it achieve what we call consciousness ?
    Answer this question if you can.
    When ( and not if) smarter than human AI and associated super-human robotics take all jobs away from humans because the machines can do every job better, cheaper, faster than any human or group of humans , what becomes of capitalism.
    How can it exist without those billions of pay checks that drive consumption ?
    This will happen , without a doubt within that 15 year time frame .
    You owe it to yourself to look into this time frame because your future will be intimately affected by it.
    In order for me to be wrong about this, Moore’s Law would have to become invalid and it shows no sign of becoming invalid anytime before those super-human machines have been created .
    I realize that this thinking is not generally accepted and is considered akin to science fiction by some very astute critics .
    Realize though, that one of the leaders in this futurist field.
    Ray Kurzweil was hired on as chief of engineering at Google and is leading that company’s research into driverless cars, age-reversing and other fields that his predictions of future technologies have pointed to as inevitable..
    If I’m wrong about the future , Google is wrong as well.
    Think about that.

  • Erasmus’ distopian view of the future is precisely based on his Cuban experience. One in which daily life is always a struggle and a better future that was promised never arrives. An experience where potatoes are a luxury and buildings fall down every day. So how is he to comprehend a better future. One in which human drive, ingenuity and ambition is thwarted by a repressive government.

    Yes Cuba is better positioned for any type of energy crises, inasmuch as Cuba is already a distroyed third world economy

  • to have a “dystopian” view of the future does not necessarily reflect on contemporary Cuban experience. For those here in the States not shielded behind their “gated communities.” the dystopian future is already upon us. For some examples from the front lines, I refer you to Lynh Dinh’s photo and prose reports from his blog, “Postcards from the End of America.” Even closer to home, on every trip from my home in Southern Vermont down the Connecticut Valley to the Rotten Apple I pass through numerous cities and towns that are post-industrial waste lands. Cuba, on the other hand, due to its limited resources is in better shape to deal with the coming energy crisis–hell, it has already endured that crisis beginning in the Special Period! It is in better shape, and has better potential, with the emerging alternatives in its food supplies, especially with vegetables. Here in the States we get a great % of our vegetables from the Central Valley of California. Now, due to the fourth–soon to be fifth–year of dought, prices will be skyrocketing, and for what? tasteless GMO-laced psuedo veggies. What’s next?! Soylent Green?!

  • Don’t go bursting his buble

  • I support your statement on Solar. Solar is a technology. The capitalist world has made great strides to engineer it into a competitive substitute for nuclear and carbon based fuels. Grid level batteries are lacking, but they are on their way.

    The price of Solar will be steep to humanity at first. The barbaric Middle East is going to need to stretch it’s one export for as long as it can. The U.S. has lost interest in keeping the local peace, self reliance is order of day on defense.

    The demise of Capital based economies by 2030 seems hasty given the lack of advancement by humanity in ulturism. Without incentive, human’s do poorly as a species. Much is made of socialists repeated failure because of central planners inability to balance production with consumption. But the problem is deeper. Production suffers greatly when it is not rewarded.

  • Solar/photovoltaic technologies are making huge strides in developing new materials and methods to bring solar electric power below the cost of fossil fuel-powered plants in a year or so .
    The enormous environmental costs of fossil fuel use of course , is never figured into the cost of that source so the reality is that solar is already cheaper than fossil fuel generated power.
    Once super efficient solar power units are developed in a few short years , our long dependence on fossil fuels will be over and the planet will clean itself up .
    Poverty itself will cease to be a problem after the demise of capitalism ( estimated around 2030) due to automation of all production and a worldwide super abundance of clean water, food, electricity -essentially all the necessities of life produced by what will be smarter-than-human AI and robotics.
    The future is much better than you think.

  • … And Elio, no disrespect, but my personal observation of your writings show a dystopian view of the future. A view that inh pinion is driven by your experiences in Cuba. I for one ascribe ( I can’t beleive I’m saying this) to John Goodrich’s view that “the future is brighter than you think”. Your view is formed by Che’s “New Man” ideology and your experiences in Cuba where the future is always worse than ghd past…..that and the fact that you are limited in your access to information.

  • Erasmo. These oil producing countries that are in turmoil are not running out of oil. The problem with these countries are social and political instability which is driving down production. A perfect case in point is Venezuela, which has the greatest oil reserves in the world. Oil production in Venezuela is falling year over year due to mismanagement and lack of investment, not lack of oil. Yemen is, as you correctly stated, “up in flames” because of muslim extreamists and political instability.

    The world is not running out of oil, at least not yet, that’s why the price of oil has been plummeting….another problem that these politically unstable governments have to deal with

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